What You Need to Know About Getting Your Final Paycheck

Laws exist that protect the interests of employees who quit their jobs

Depositing paycheck remotely via smartphone
RyanJLane/Getty Images

The average person will have about 12 jobs throughout their career, which means 12 final paychecks, and it’s important to remember that leaving a job doesn't end the company's obligation to pay you correctly and on time. If you are thinking of quitting your job, or have yet to receive your final paycheck, here is what you need to know.

Your Company Must Pay You for All Hours Worked

Unless you have a specific contract that spells out when you can leave a job, you can quit at any time. Traditionally, employers expect you to give advance notice before your last day at work, but no law requires you to give two weeks’ notice—it’s just common courtesy to ensure your team won’t be scrambling without you.

Your boss is then obligated to pay you for all of the hours you worked, and the company cannot dock your pay if you quit without notice or leave during the busy season. If you are a salaried exempt employee, they only need to pay you for the days you worked, and not the entire week. For example, if your standard pay period is for two weeks or 10 days of work, and you quit on day three, you'll only receive 30% of your regular paycheck.

Non-exempt employees receive pay for all of the hours they actually worked. If you are a non-exempt employee, make sure that you clock in and clock out correctly on your last day.

When Will You Receive Your Final Paycheck?

Federal law doesn't make special requirements for final paychecks, so you can expect to receive your final paycheck on your regular payday. The U.S. Department of Labor encourages you to contact your employer if you don't receive your last paycheck as expected or the Wage and Hour Division directly. However, your state may have different rules regarding final paychecks.

  • California: If a company fires you or lays you off, they need to give you your final paycheck on your last day. If you quit without notice, they have up to 72 hours to provide the final paycheck. If you give them at least three days' notice, you should receive your final paycheck on your last day of work.
  • Connecticut: Requires employers to provide a final paycheck for terminated employees (fired or laid off) by the next business day. If you resign, they can pay you on the next regularly scheduled payday.
  • Florida: There are no specific final paycheck laws, so if you quit or lose your job in Florida, you can expect the company to follow the federal guidelines. That means you should receive your paycheck on the regularly scheduled payday.

To find out your state's specific paycheck rules, you can Google "[state name] final paycheck law," and you will most likely see the answer, but double-check to make sure that the site is reputable. If you can't find the information you seek online, you can call your state department of labor. The U.S. Department of Labor put together a list of all the contact information.

You can also ask your company when to expect the final paycheck. This is an excellent question tobring up in an exit interview.

Will Your Employer Take Any Deductions From Your Final Paycheck? 

Your final paycheck should look like your regular paycheck, with a few exceptions. If your company has earned vacation (such as you receive one vacation day for every month worked) and your company let you take a vacation before you had earned it, they can deduct that amount, under Federal law. So, if you have an earned vacation plan and you took a full two weeks' worth of vacation in January, and quit in February, you may have almost the entire two weeks' of pay deducted from your final paycheck. 

If you do not return company property (laptops, uniforms, keys, etc.), your company can deduct the cost from your final paycheck as well, as long as it does not bring your pay below minimum wage. If you do not return the property, your company can take you to court, and if you lose, you will either have to return the property or pay your former employer for it. The best move is to return all property on your last day of work.

Bottom Line

Your state law or federal law protects you for all the work you did even if you did a lousy job. So, don't be afraid to speak up about your final paycheck. If the company doesn't provide it according to your state laws, contact your state Department of Labor. You're entitled to be paid for your work. 

Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided, while authoritative, is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality. The site is read by a world-wide audience and ​employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and country to country. Please seek legal assistance, or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources, to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct for your location. This information is for guidance, ideas, and assistance.